Since I began this blog almost five years ago, I have strived to teach and entertain in equal parts. Although I share recipes, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with them, because I believe that they stifle creativity. On the other side of that, they can also act as a template for how to make certain styles of food, especially if you focus less on the actual list of ingredients and more on the list of instructions.
When I write a recipe to share with you, my goal is to show you how I made something on one particular occasion. What I’m more interested in your taking away is the cooking and/or baking techniques that I use to make whatever-it-is I’ve made. That’s why I hesitate to use the word “recipe,” since most folks translate that into “set in stone.”
Mixed Fruit Butter
Take this fruit butter that I made a few days ago after getting all inspired by the pear butter with elderflower liqueur over at Pook’s Pantry. Fruit butter is nothing more than spiced and reduced fruit sauce. To make apple butter, start with apple sauce, spice it assertively and then cook it down slowly until it has reduced and caramelized. Or, you can do like I did and make one after the other: make the sauce first and without missing a beat, cook it down until it has thickened, caramelized and the flavors are concentrated.
It works best with harder fruits, I think—apples, pears, quince—although I tossed a dozen overripe figs into the mix as well, because they were lying around and needed something to do.
Before I share the recipe (shudder), let me just share the steps with you. (Technically, it’s the same thing as the instructions part of a recipe, but somehow “sharing the steps” seems much more freeing).
- Wash and cut up your fruit–no need to pare or core
- Sweeten and season as desired.
- You probably won’t need extra liquid, but if you want to add some, cider is a good bet. You can also add some alcohol if you’d like.
- Cook until fruit is very soft.
- Run through a food mill to remove seeds, skins and any whole spices and to give it an applesauce-y texture.
- Continue to cook over low heat until it is as thick and caramelized as you like. Stir frequently. You can also do this last step in your Crock Pot.
- 6 medium cooking apples, , washed and cut up (core and pare only if you don't own a food mill. I used honey crisp, and...something else)
- 2 Bartlett pears, , washed and cut up (core and pare only if you don't own a food mill)
- 12 plump figs, , stems removed
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/3 cup brandy
- 3 cinnamon sticks, (or 1-2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon)
- 2-3 star anise pods
- 4-8 whole allspice berries, (depending on how allspicey you like things)
- 2 Tablespoons dried lemongrass, (available at Mexican groceries)
- 3-4 slices crystallized ginger
- fine sea salt, , to taste. Probably about 1/2 teaspoon or so
- Place all ingredients in a large braiser or heavy Dutch oven.
- If you don't have a food mill, put all the whole spices in a small cheesecloth bag or even in a coffee filter tied tightly. This will make it easier to fish out before pureeing.
- Heat over medium heat until the fruit starts to release their juices and it all comes to a boil.
- Put the lid on and simmer until the fruit is all very soft. You may have to stir every once in awhile to make sure all the fruit has a chance to be down in the boiling liquid.
- Run everything--whole spices, peels and all--through a food mill fixed with the medium die. If you don't have a food mill, remove the spice bag and then puree with a stick blender or in batches in your blender. Be careful!
- Return your puree to the pot and cook uncovered over medium low to low heat for an hour or two, until the mixture is very thick and has darkened somewhat in color. Stir frequently--every couple of minutes or so--and keep it at a very slow burble.
- This recipe isn't formulated for canning since I paid no attention to sugar or acidity levels. If you want to can yours, please make sure you follow the rules and proportions for fruit butter made for canning.
- I ran my mixture through the food mill a second time, but that's totally optional.
- Cool and store in the fridge. Use within a couple of weeks (although it will probably be good for much longer than that).
And there you have it. Two recipe templates, one for fruit butter and one for crackers, that I would be thrilled for you to alter to suit your tastes.
Thank you, thank you to all of you who read, whether or not you leave a comment, and for your interactions over on facebook, twitter, Pinterest and Google +. Blogging has allowed me to continue to teach even though my classroom is now virtual, and it has afforded me the opportunity and incentive to create some pretty great food for you guys, if I do say so myself. It is an honor and a pure joy to do both. When you visit here, please remember that I try to address technique before recipe, and I encourage you all to do the same. It will open up a whole new world of possibility, allowing you to exercise your creativity within a structured method.
Here are some other friends who started blogging around the same time as I did. All are passionate about what they do, so if you don’t know them, please go say hi, and tell them Happy Blogiversary, too!
- NoRecipes by Marc Matsumoto
- Croque Camille by Camille Malmquist
- The Daily Spud by Aoife Cox
- Living in the Kitchen with Puppies by Natashya Hamilton
- The Leftover Queen by Jenn Campus
- Tangled Noodle by Tracey Paska